Friday, May 30, 2008

Overlooked Books Friday



Overlooked books? I’ve thought this was a very cool meme/endeavor since I first saw it, and today I was reminded of it by Lisa over at Eudomania.. It apparently started, however, with Patti Abbott, and she posted more information about it today on her blog.

The idea seems to be to find a book that the writer personally enjoys or loves, but which is largely forgotten, and bring it back into the awareness of today’s readers. Since I read a lot of older books, and have a great fondness for the books I read when I was younger, this is the perfect meme for me. So, without further ado, I present my first “forgotten book.”

Desert Dog by Jim Kjelgaard, which was originally published in 1956. This is a young-adult book but I have reread it as an adult and still find it very enjoyable. It’s the story of Tawny, a racing greyhound who ends up abandoned in the desert and must learn to survive on his own against coyotes, snakes and a pack of wild dogs who hunts him. Kjelgaard had the ability to put you inside the dog’s consciousness and experience without making the dog seem like just another human in a fur coat. The book was also a great influence on me as a young man. It taught me about honor and love and sacrifice, even if as an adult I’ve not always practiced those things. I believe the youth of today, boys and girls, could love this book.

I might also add that Kjelgaard is himself a forgotten writer, in that I hardly ever hear anyone mention him these days. I think that’s a shame. Kjelgaard wrote many great stories, especially dog stories, and I’ve read almost all of them. Some other very good ones were Big Red, his most famous book, and Snow Dog. He also wrote a wonderful story about a polar bear, Kalak of the Ice, which I have been looking for for a long time, and some wonderful historical stories about early humankind in Fire Hunter and Boomerang Hunter.




There is a website for Kjelgaard here. He died in 1959, less than a year after I was born, but his books had a big effect on me as a youngster and I will always remember his stories fondly. Thanks Jim!

26 comments:

laughingwolf said...

excellent author, charles, i'd forgotten about him :)

i want to plug portia nelson, and her 'there's a hole in my sidewalk', a book that helped shape me....

Travis Erwin said...

I read several of his books but I don't think desert dog was one of them.

Lisa said...

This sounds like one I'd like. I had never heard of him, but I'm glad I have now. Thanks Charles.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Charles. Nice to have you along.

Steve Malley said...

I wonder if I can still get this...

ivan said...

Well, I'm sure our correspondent E. A. Monroe would enjoy Jim Kjelgaard's "We Were There at the Oklahoma Land Run - 1957, Grosset & Dunlap."

She is from Oklahoma and does some writing on these themes herself.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, our small town library carried a lot of Kjelgaard's books and I read every one they had. Good stuff for a kid.

Travis Erwin, it was the best, I thought, but I liked 'em all. He did some American historicals as well.

Lisa, book sales will sometimes have some of his books in the YA section, usually old library copies.

Pattinase, it's a great idea and I'll be trying to do this regularly. Thanks for visiting.

Steve Malley, I'm sure you might get this at a place that caters to older books, like Abe Books. I haven't looked to see if they have it on Amazon. I got mine as an ex library copy at a used book sale.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I didn't know he'd written that one.

Sidney said...

That is a cool idea. There are so many cool things that can get overlooked.

Lana Gramlich said...

If I get into a dog's consciousness these days I'm going to go out & get one & since I'm not really ready for that, I'll pass. BTW, we need to find puppies to play with...SOON.

Greg Schwartz said...

I didn't think I'd ever heard of him but once you mentioned "Big Red" I remembered reading it as a kid. Great book. "Desert Dog" sounds good, too.

They've got "Kalak" used at Amazon, but I think the cheapest one is $34.00.

Sam said...

Oh my! I think I read most of his books - I remember being Hooked on the Big Red saga!
Thanks for the meomories!

writtenwyrdd said...

A couple of books from my childhood that were animal books:

"Vulpus the Red Fox" which seems to be out of print
"Crazy Kill Range" (about a cow horse) by Rutherford Montgomery (who wrote a number of animal stories set in the West)
"The Black Stallion," et al by Walter Farley
"Misty of Chincoteague" and "Brighty of the Grand Canyon" by Marguerite Henry

Animal stories were the best. I read Big Red and really liked it. such trivia as Irish Setters were hunting dogs had never come my way before.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I know, and some of it is a lot better than the average book coming out these days.

Lana, we can go to that little pet store I was talking about on Thursday.

Greg, that's actually a good price for Kalak. I'll check it out. The only copy I've seen before was for more than a 100 bucks, which I'm not going to pay.

Sam, yes those were good ones. I know there were three books in that series.

Our library didn't have Rutherford MOntgomery but I bet I would have loved his work too. I've bought some as an adult. The Walter Farley Black Stallion books were another mainstay of my reading though.

Donnetta Lee said...

Interesting, Charles. Thanks for the info. I love animal stories cause I love animals. Have to check this out.
Donnetta

Anndi said...

Having two dogs of my own, I think I may want to check this writer out.

Erik Donald France said...

This is a wonderful idea, a great act in the service of cultural survival.

Drowsey Monkey said...

This story line sounds vaguely familiar, I wonder if I read it when I was young ... many, many years ago. ;)

Thanks for dropping by my blog ... I'm glad you did because I'm really enjoying your posts.

the walking man said...

hmmm...maybe the dog that killed a bear should pen her memoirs?

peace

Michelle's Spell said...

I like the idea of forgotten books. It's amazing how many books have affected me profoundly that get no public notice. But I wouldn't mind that fate as a writer -- helping someone pass the violet hours in some distant world that I can't imagine, a book a person picked up because he or she liked the title or the cover. I've read tons of stuff for no real reason and enjoyed it tons. Will have to check out your guy!

Charles Gramlich said...

Donnetta, me too, although I don't read as many as I used to.

Anndi, I always had lots of dogs and cats growing up on the farm, and of course many other animals. I loved to read stories about them all.

Erik, yes, I know, I honor patti Abbott for coming up with it. Cool concept.

Drowsey Monkey, I enjoyed your blog. I bet you'd like Ello's stuff. She also writes some very good humor that comes out of family and relationships.

Mark, why not, Barbara Bush's dog Millie penned hers.

Michelle, I know, and that's part of the fun of this for me, going back and revisiting some of those wonderful old books that shaped me.

X. Dell said...

I see novels as commentary on the human condition, so I can see the the beauty and craft of a writer who can do this with a non-human protagonist.

Interesting concept. With the mountains of books available, it's easy to see how some works and authors can get overlooked through the years.

Mary Witzl said...

I love the idea of reviving forgotten books too. The Cloister and the Hearth is one of my personal favorites and it saddens me that when you mention this nowadays, no one knows what you're talking about.

We had a math teacher who used to read to us in the seventh grade, when we'd done particularly well. She made math bearable for me. One of the books she was going to read was Snow Dog, but I had to change classes before she got to it. I'll keep an eye out for it in the library -- it's never too late to catch up, and I do love the older books.

Charles Gramlich said...

X-dell, I think I was strongly influenced by these kinds of books and it helped me with writing the alien characters in Cold in the Light.

Mary Witzl, Snow dog is quite good. I haen't read the one you mentioned, though. You should do a post about it. Or if you did I'm afraid I missed it.

Shauna Roberts said...

I had never heard of Kjelgaard before. I'm going to keep an eye out for Desert Dog for my young nephews.

cs harris said...

Never read Desert Dog, but I loved his Big Red and Irish Red. I think there was another one, too. Outlaw Red? in those days, I wasn't clever enough to hunt down other works by writers whose books I'd liked, so it looks like I missed a lot I obviously would have enjoyed.